Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

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A Foot Trail to the Visitor’s Center

Friday June 12, 2015                                                                                                             Previous Post:
Big Meadows Campground                                                                             Rapidan Camp or Hoover’s Summer White House
Shenandoah National Park


David will return from Charlottesville this afternoon so this morning I take a shorter hike.  I’m curious to see where the Story of the Forest Nature Trail goes.  It begins just down from the Campground check in booth off of the bike trail.  I’m expecting a walk numbered for an accompanying pamphlet which I don’t have.

What I get is just a much lovelier way to walk the mile to the Visitor Center than using the bike path along the roads.




The trail through the forest dead ends in a grassy area and I see from the information on the cement marker that the VC and the Dark Hollow Falls Trail are to the left.  The campground is to the right.  I didn’t know that I could pick up the trail in the campground rather than having to climb the hill up to the check in station and then take it back down.  I’ll for sure go that way on the way back.




Looking left, that’s the campground straight ahead.


But I go right and the trail shrinks and heads back into the woods.



More ferns.  In some cases they are thick as far as I can see.  They must love this habitat.




At one point I’m walking through an old orchard.  I wonder what the fruit tastes like now after years of being neglected and unpruned.  Actually I have noticed many fruit trees in the campground as well and wonder if all of this area was some mountain family’s orchard.







The path is lined with a variety of trees as is typical in this diverse eastern woodland.  My favorites are the oaks.  This one is a red.  You can tell by the points on its leaves.






I’m pretty surprised to come upon this sign board entitled “Getting to know the air you breathe”.  Behind it is an air quality monitoring station that for 30 years has been providing valuable information about trends in air quality over time..  It collects data on weather, visibility, ozone levels and pollutants in the air.  The board tells me that scientists across the nation use the data to advise protection agencies and lawmakers about regulations that will help reduce pollution and protect the air we breathe.  The data shows that when strong regulations are in place the quality of air improves which means cleaner water, better views, healthier people, fewer lung diseases.  Air pollution regulations are a good role for our government to play in my opinion.





Soon I come to a trio of my favorite trees.  I can’t tell if they have sprung up from a the base of a tree that was cut down or if they just grew this way.




I can’t seem to get my arms around all 3.  You can tell it is a white oak from it’s rounded leaves.




The metal bands on the next post on the trail inform me that that I’ve come 6/10th of a mile from the campground and that the Visitor Center is another 1/2 mile to my right.  It also says Dark Hallow Falls is only a mile away.  I intend to see Dark Hollow Falls on a longer hike perhaps tomorrow but a 2 mile round trip for a sneak peak would be fun.  That would make my total about 4 miles.  I can easily be back before David arrives.



I carry on across the bridge and pass a rock bridge to my right which is the path to the Visitor’s Center.







The trail to Dark Hollow and it’s trailhead parking lot are just across the Skyline Drive.



Quite a few cars though the parking lot is not full.  But then it’s only a little after 9 in the morning.  I find that the trails are empty between 6 and 9.  The real crowds are in the afternoon.




But then I read the sign carefully…..short but VERY STEEP and ROCKY.  Return climb CHALLENGING.  Not just rocky but SLIPPERY rocks.  Shoes with gripping soles.  They say like hiking boots and sneakers.  I have to say that my sneakers, which I’m wearing do not have gripping soles.  Plus I don’t have my hiking pole which it seems I would want with all these warnings.   Guess I’ll just wait for tomorrow when I’m better prepared.   I do really appreciate this information at the trail head.  I hope everyone always reads the trail head signs.



So back I go over the stone bridge to the Visitor’s Center.





There I find the CCC Statue which is at most parks created totally or in part by the CCC.



I also find a Ranger program in progress.  He’s talking about snakes and has a long skin from a black rat snake.  He’s really excellent at providing important educational information and entertaining the wide age range of listeners in his audience.



I’ve really only hiked down here to see what the trail was like.  I’ve been to the VC several times already though I haven’t yet read all the exhibits or seen the film.  I’m waiting for it to rain.  Smile

I do go check out the books again of course and find another one for the holiday gift list.


I look through several books on the cultural history of the park and the use of eminent domain to remove people from their homes.  I know a lot about this since I have lived in the area for over 30 years and in Virginia most of my life. I know people whose grandparents were removed and their homes burned.  The ill feelings have not all disappeared.

I find two new to me very interesting looking books and decide since I really do like to read about an area while I’m there that’s I’ll take them home with me.  These are things I’d be very unlikely to find in a library.




On the return trip I read the signs just outside the Visitor’s Center and am surprised to find the distance listed in km first and miles in parenthesis.  Pretty unusual around here.





I walk back the way I came, up hill of course and hear a familiar bird singing.  I stop to look for him and spot him on a tree branch.  I actually catch him in mid song…..drink your teeeeeeeee. 



Despite the up hill climb, the hike back seems shorter than the way down.  Perhaps that’s because I only have to climb up about three quarters of the way and then I can walk straight into the campground.   One of these mornings I think I’ll take this trail down to the Big Meadow at dawn.  Stay tuned…………..


  1. Nice hiking area, but all the tall foliage near the trail makes me think of ticks. They are abundant in north FL this time of year. Makes me happy to be in cool Canada:)

    1. No ticks so far and we check every time we come back from a hike.

  2. So, what were the books you took with you?

    1. Oppps meant to say that they are the two in the middle, Shenandoah Secrets and Shenandoah: A Story of Conservation and Betrayal.

  3. I really appreciate the air quality station and their making that data available to scientists around the world. Thirty years of data is a lot of information and I do hope it serves to improve air quality and not just tell us how bad it is. Great trail!!

  4. Looked like a nice hike:) I'm sure you'll be glad to have David back with you:)

  5. I like how the CCC is honored by those statues in many of the NPs. We have much to be thankful for their labors giving us such beautiful places to relish nature's beauty.

  6. Had no idea this trail existed ... but that's probably because we never camped at Shenandoah NP.

  7. I love forest walks. While they may seem similiar to some folks, they each seem to have a character of their own. What a magical world we live in. The variety is so incredible. I do find it fun to get to know the character and history of an area I have lived in for so long. There is a story at every turn.

  8. Although I'm sure you'll be glad when David returns it's kind of nice to hike alone sometimes. I notice more when by myself. Great that the air quality has been monitored so long, now if we'd just pay more attention to keeping our air and water clean. All those ferns are so delightful and love the triple tree.

  9. So glad you are finding such pretty trails and places to enjoy. Thanks for the tree ID info...I am trying to learn one from the other:o)) The wildflowers are just starting here in Maine and there are so many that I don't know;o(( I really do need a guide!!!

  10. That looks like a good book. The story of the American Chestnut is fascinating. Nice trail thanks for taking us along :)

  11. It's nice to see you hiking in long pants, which I assume means you're not having the miserable heat wave like we are. Those ferns are beautiful and all that beauty is making me anxious to get out hiking, but I have no desire to hike here in Florida right now. Looking forward to the waterfall trail.

  12. I tend to agree with ferns, if they like a place I do too! Love the proximity to such a beautiful hike from your campsite, and glad you waited to tackle the steep and slippery trail. I need to find some good books on the Oregon coast as we continue north.

  13. Always nice to see you enjoying your hikes. The CCC was amazing, we see some of their handiwork here too.

  14. What a beautiful trail! I was also wondering about ticks, and am glad to hear they haven't been a problem. I agree with you -- monitoring air quality is a very good practice.

  15. A lot of folks along the Appalachian Trail have bad feelings about eminent domain. I was the recipient of some bad behavior when I hiked there (but it wasn't in the Shenandoah).

  16. Such a pretty area- and the bird's quite colourful. I've never seen one like that here.

  17. Ha ha I like what the bird (towhee?) is singing...drink your teeee.. his song is actually one of my favorite next to a singing meadow lark.
    I do missed hiking on wooded trails such as what you have been doing there in Shenandoah Park.

  18. Great trail and great picture of that moth on the flower!! Shenendoah is a lovely place all around - looks like a very nicely done and informative vistor's center too. Beautiful bird shot.


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